Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Books to add to your summer reading list

With just a week until summer, now's the time to start stocking up on or making a list of good books to read. And I've read quite a few good books since my last Book Nook post, which I've listed below (along with a link to Amazon.com, where you can find reviews and buy the book). Btw, you can find even more great reads by clicking on the Book Recommendations link in the right-hand column (or clicking on the link just a few words back ;-).

Got a book you think others would enjoy, which would make for good summer reading? (I am desperate to find some lighter fare, something fun and a bit romantic.) Let me know via the Comments (or Facebook). Btw, THANK YOU for all of your past suggestions. I have read many of them, as have many of my readers.

File under "non-fiction," "travel," and "serious chick lit" (and "for food lovers" for the first two):

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard. The title pretty much sums it up. Humorous and touching, and well written, reading Lunch in Paris made me want to hop on a plane and have lunch in Paris. Btw, you don't have to be a chick to enjoy the book, but it helps (as does being a New Yorker and/or an art history major and/or foodie).

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War
by Annia Ciezadlo. You think living in New York City is tough? Try living in Beirut and/or Baghdad. Despite the many hardships she faced, though, Ciezadlo writes fondly of her time in the Middle East and of all the interesting -- make that amazing -- people and food she encountered. A fascinating read.

Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil by Deborah Rodriguez. Another amazing story about an American woman in the Middle East, in this case a big-hearted beautician whose good intentions (and naivete) ultimately wind up doing more harm than good.

The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe by Glynis Ridley. Love subtitles. Makes my life so much easier. In a word: fascinating. I am in awe of Jeanne Baret -- and am so glad Glynis Ridley was able to tell her story. Another eloquently written book about an ordinary woman's extraordinary life as the first woman -- disguised as a man among hundreds of sailors -- to circumnavigate the globe, who made important scientific discoveries in the fields of botany and pharmacology along the way, and got zero credit for any of it during her lifetime and hundreds of years after.

File under "non-fiction" and "boys will be boys":

Artie Shaw: King of the Clarinet by Tom Nolan. What is it about musicians? It seems the greater they are at making music, the greater they are at effing up relationships (and friendships and finances). And Artie Shaw was one seriously great clarinet player and asshole. But the ladies loved him, even after they divorced him. A fascinating look at Shaw and the swing and big band eras. If you love jazz, Artie Shaw is a must read.

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer. My takeaway: memorizing stuff is really hard work. An entertaining read, which I think my male readers will really enjoy.

File under "fiction":

I Still Dream About You
by Fannie Flagg. Another good read from Fannie Flagg, who seems to be obsessed with death of late. This time Flagg's central character is a 60-year-old former Miss Alabama (and almost Miss America) now real estate broker who has decided to end it all, except things keep getting in the way. Funny and poignant with some great characters, though I found it hard to relate to.

Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani. A great working girl story set in circa 1950 New York, specifically Greenwich Village and B. Altman. (I still miss that department store.) While the writing was uneven, I was swept up by Lucia's story -- which describes what it was like to be a happy 20-something working girl, making custom-made dresses for B. Altman's high society and celebrity clients, and trying to find a husband who would respect her -- and found myself wishing I could travel back in time to 1950s New York City just for a day and a night.

Mr. Chartwell
by Rebecca Hunt. A poignant first novel that examines (though that's not quite the right word) how depression, in the form of a large black dog, Mr. Chartwell, affects Winston Churchill as well as a young widow. To quote the author, "Mr Chartwell isn’t just a book about depression. It is equally about redemption, courage and love. And, for me, it is predominantly and most importantly about hope." Me? I couldn't put it down. (Btw, if, like me, you suffer from bouts of depression, you will absolutely relate to this book.)

The Various Flavors of Coffee
by Anthony Capella. Loved Capella's book The Wedding Officer, so grabbed this when I saw it on the recommended fiction cart at the library. While well written, I didn't enjoy The Various Flavors of Coffee as much. I guess you could say it was a bit bitter for my taste. But if you like historical fiction (as I do), coffee (ditto), English novels (ditto), with two teaspoons of romance (ditto), you will most likely enjoy this book, which is set in late 1800s England (and Africa), and follows the exploits of an aspiring writer (and sex fiend) who gets sucked into the coffee trade.

File under "fantasy" and "if you miss Harry Potter":

The Lost Gate
by Orson Scott Card. For those of you who don't know me well, I was a huge sci-fi/fantasy geek back in the day, at least reading wise. And I still pick up the odd fantasy or science fiction novel when one catches my eye. (Read the entire Harry Potter series before the kid.) And Orson Scott Card's latest, a coming of age story about a young man who discovers he has god-like powers (which isn't entirely surprising as he's part of a family of banished Norse gods), definitely caught my eye. If you liked the Harry Potter series or well-written fantasy/young adult novels, or have a pre-teen or teen who does, check out The Lost Gate.

I also read An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin and Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell, but was not enamored of either of them. Though if you were an art history major in college or are into the New York art scene, you might be amused (or appalled) by the Steve Martin book. (As for Sarah Vowell's latest work, about the decimation of the native Hawaiian population by American missionaries, I found it depressing at best -- without any of the wittiness of her prior book, The Wordy Shipmates.)

Happy reading -- and please recommend some escapist fiction for me to read this summer!


JAGZ said...

Love getting your list and will be reading it tonight. Many thanks!

My taste is all over the place and I read a lot. Did you read Emma Blau, The Alchemist, or Cutting For Stone? I liked all of them. I cannot say that I have any “fun, frothy… or escapist literature” and you are more well read than me, but if I find something good, I will email you. I just found a book that is in the genre of Dan Brown but I imagine that that is not your speed. I have a list of books I collected from friends that I have yet to read but nothing that is jumping out at me though I am thinking of reading The Book Thief and The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet; I heard that The Art of Racing in the Rain is excellent, too. For a very silly light read, Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven was fast and a bit inane. I recently read the seven book series that started with Clan of the Cave Bear about 10 years ago; the early books were better…definitely not a high quality read.

Charlene said...

I just finished "The Increment" by David Ignatious. It's a 2009 novel about Iran and their nuclear efforts. I read it in about 2 days.

I read "Our Kind of Traitor" by John LeCarre, which took forever to read and was not that good.

"The Confession" by John Gresham was ok but not worth the amount of reading required.

"A Reliable Wife" by Robert Goolrick is a very good book.

Lots of books pass by me and I read a lot but usually they're out a year or more before I read them.

Laura said...

I have to admit I gave up on Orson Scott Card when his books no longer even thinly veiled the fact that they were Mormon theology, pure and simple. If this one is different, I might give it a try, though; I did enjoy his writing initially.

I'm probably no help with the summer escapist reading because I've been reading depressing YA fiction recently -- The Hunger Games trilogy (was I the last adult in America to read them?), the John Marsden Tomorrow, When the War Began set (seven books, set in Australia -- my biggest complaint being that the third book and only the third book wasn't available for the Kindle, so I had to go out and find a used copy at an affordable price, which was hard to do since it's a 15-year-old series), and the ultra, ultra, ULTRA depressing Susan Beth Pfeffer Life As We Knew It series, about what happens when a comet hits the moon and knocks it closer to the earth, causing shortages, volcanic winter, destruction of society, and basically death, starvation, and yet MORE death and starvation. I only recommend it to people who are planning on killing themselves anyway, seriously, since it makes you want to by the end just reading about it!

So I'm definitely open for something a bit more light and cheerful. To put it mildly!

J. said...

@JAGZ, thanks for the excellent suggestions. I'm familiar with nearly all of them, but fear they are too depressing or sad for my delicate constitution (except for the Clan of the Cave Bear books, which I couldn't get into). ;-)

@Charlene, thanks for your suggestions, too. I appreciate them! And many of the books I read have been out for a while before I find out about or read them.

@Laura, I did not realize that about Card's books. Huh. And have a feeling this one won't pass muster in that case. And while I appreciate all suggestions, I need to stay away from depressing and ultra-depressing (and/or sad and/or scary) books for a little while.

That said, Another David S. just recommended two books (via email) that sound very promising (and amusing): Malcolm Gladwell's What the Dog Saw and Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby.

Anonymous said...

Another good summer read is the epic fantasy story of Poepi and the Giant. check it out for free on http://www.poepiandthegiant.com. Also available on the kindle store for just 99 cents. http://www.amazon.com/Poepi-Giant-Princess-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B0052UX168

Paula said...

Just finished Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell. Sad, funny, poignant and incredibly touching story about a deep friendship between two women. Covers their love for each other, their dogs and rowing with such grace and wonderful prose. It's a tear jerker but quite a satisfying read.